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PHU takes path of least resistance

With district tournaments just a few days away, St. Petersburg and Palm Harbor University had the same priorities in Friday's Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship match: no injuries and no cards.

"The third one was to win," PHU coach John Planamenta said.

His Hurricanes achieved all three, beating St. Petersburg 4-0 at Countryside.

The Hurricanes (16-0) dominated, especially in the second half when the Green Devils put in several reserves.

In a first half with a few near scores, Palm Harbor finally scored in the 37th minute when Lizzie Wellings crossed to Kaylyn Smith. Sara Stack scored twice in the second half, and Annie Stalzer rounded out the scoring for the Hurricanes.

Though it wasn't reflected in the score, the Green Devils hounded PHU's attack.

"St. Pete was putting good pressure on us and that's why our touches were a little off," Planamenta said. "They came here to play and we had to step it up."

Goalkeeper Rachael Howard bailed out St. Petersburg a few times, stopping would-be goals with her fingertips.

The format of this year's PCAC event was changed from a week-long tournament to one game between the teams with the overall best records from the North and South division. It was a move many coaches favored. There's less stress in one game instead of risking injuries and penalties in several games just before districts.

"I was expecting to get to districts without anymore injuries," St. Petersburg coach Rui Farias said.

Farias even benched one of his best players, Emily Smith, to make sure she'll be rested for next week.

"Our emphasis is to be in Seminole Stadium on Jan. 30," he said, referring to the site of their district final, should the Green Devils advance to that game.

St. Petersburg (11-4-1) survived without any setbacks for next week but Farias said losing was a disappointment. Last year the Green Devils defeated Palm Harbor U. in the PCAC final.

The teams play in different district tournaments next week, but could meet in the region round if both advance.

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